Joshua 9-11 We are your servants, make a covenant with us

From Joshua 9-11

06 Joshua Jerichos Walls FallThe LORD is winning more and more battles through Israel. The writing is on the wall and many begin to fear when they will be next. Today’s passage describes two ways in which the local nations deal with Israel’s threat.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

9 As soon as all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this, 2 they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel. 3 But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, 4 they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, 5 with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. (Jos 9:1–5)

Most of the nations join forces and prepare to fight Israel together. The inhabitants of Gibeon however refuse to join the united nations. They have heard of what happened to Jericho and Ai. They know if they oppose them they too will be slaughtered. All of them. So they set out to deceive Israel. They make themselves look ‘worn-out’ from a long journey.

6 And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.” 7 But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?” 8 They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?” (Jos 9:6-8)

They request they make a covenant between them. I’ve written a bit on ancient covenant’s here.

What would be the implications for Israel and the Gibeonites if they made a covenant?

Israel would be honour bound to keep peace with the Gibeonites and protect them. The leaders of Israel are skeptical. If Gibeon lives among them, then Israel is supposed to conquer and destroy them, not allow them to live.

In some cases covenants were drafted between a superior and an inferior party. A Lord and servant. The Gibeonites say to Joshua, ‘we are your servants’. Joshua likewise questions them.

Are you in covenant relationship with God?

9 They said to him, “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, 10 and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth. 11 So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, “We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.” ’ (Jos 9:9-11)

The Gibeonites reply to Joshua. They lie about where they came from. They say they came from a ‘very distant country’.

They tell the truth about their knowledge of their coming. They know of what they did to Egypt and the kings they have conquered so far. These are not small nations. These were the strongest nations at the time and the nation that defeated them is now coming for them. They are scared. “We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.”

12 Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly. 13 These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.” 14 So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. (Jos 9:12-14)

The Gibeonites persist with their deception and the leaders of Israel are taken in. They ‘did not ask counsel from the LORD’. If they did, the LORD would have told them of their ruse and they would have all been killed. Another nation under the belt of Israel. One less nation to turn Israel away from the LORD.

15 And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them. (Jos 9:15)

The concepts of covenants and peace are interrelated. Joshua ‘lets them live’. All the leaders make vows. Vows were serious business back then. If someone reneged on a vow, they feared divine retribution.

16 At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them. 17 And the people of Israel set out and reached their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim. 18 But the people of Israel did not attack them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. (Jos 9:16-18a)

The truth comes out. Israel learns they have been deceived. When they came to their cities they knew they could not attack them (Jos 19.18a).

18b Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders. 19 But all the leaders said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them. 20 This we will do to them: let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath that we swore to them.” 21 And the leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became cutters of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation, just as the leaders had said of them. (Jos 9:18-21)

There was a stink up. The congregation wanted to attack them and kill them.

This is not a nice story.

So they criticised the leaders of Israel. The leaders explain the vow they have made. They instead make them their slaves. “We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.”

22 Joshua summoned them, and he said to them, “Why did you deceive us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you dwell among us? 23 Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants, cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” (Jos 9:22-23)

Joshua thinks they have done something stupid. Why have they put themselves under a curse? Why have they made themselves their servants?

24 They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you—so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing. (Jos 9:24)

I’ve inserted the obvious answer.

Joshua: Why did you deceive us? You are cursed and will be our servants.

Gibeonites: You were going to slaughter us all weren’t you? We prefer being your servants rather than being killed. We wanted our men, women and children to live. We prefer being cursed rather than die.

Joshua seems to think they are now worse off. What did he think the alternative was? The Gibeonites saw no other alternative. Perhaps they could have run for their lives.

25 And now, behold, we are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it.” 26 So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them. 27 But Joshua made them that day cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, to this day, in the place that he should choose. (Jos 9:25–27)

The Gibeonites were saved because of the covenant they made with Joshua and the leaders of Israel.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Covenants establish loyalties and peace between parties. God is also bound by covenant to look after his people. In the Old Testament this is referred to as God’s ‘steadfast love’. We see the same relationship here. Gibeon made a covenant with Israel and they now have peace between each other. Israel is now bound by covenant to protect Gibeon (cf. Jos 10.1,4).

Story of Jesus

In the gospel Jesus speaks about counting the cost in following him. He uses a few analogies. One involves an instance where a king is about to war with another.

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Lk 14:25–33)

Like the Gibeonites, Jesus suggests they would be better off serving this conquering king. Its better to ask for terms with a conquering King and serve him, rather than be killed.

Jesus is our conquering king. Ask him for terms and serve him.

One of the advantages of being justified (becoming one of the righteous – a covenant member) is having peace with God. Once we were God’s enemies. God has every right to punish and put us to death for our sins. But because of Jesus’ death on the cross and faith in him, we have been justified – made righteous in his sight – we are covenant members with God. We are at peace.

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 5:1)

God is now honour bound to protect and care for us. Praise him for his generosity.

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